In case you haven’t noticed, October is a month where we in the field of student affairs like to celebrate and promote our careers – as well we should. There are many reasons to choose student affairs as your career field, and many of us enjoy our jobs quite a bit. But just as it’s important for us to celebrate and promote our field, I believe it’s also important for us to give a realistic view of what it means to have a career in student affairs. There tends to be a high turnover rate in many student affairs jobs, and at least some of this can be credited to an unrealistic expectation about the work.
Student affairs work can be hard, long, and even tedious at times. It often doesn’t pay well. Despite our claims that it is about the students, it can also be about office politics, red tape, and paperwork. Professional development is often an afterthought – if it’s a thought at all. And I challenge the student affairs professional who doesn’t admit that they’re at least a little relieved when students leave at the end of the academic year – even though they’re supposed to be the reason for our work.
You might be asking yourself right now why people would do these jobs if they’re so awful. In fact, why do I do this work if it’s so awful? I would guess many people would respond similarly to me: we do the work because the work has meaning, because we do care about students and their welfare, because we want more from our work than a paycheck. Is it frustrating at times? Absolutely. Are there rewards beyond our pay, though? You bet.
Why is it important that we recognize all the aspects of a career in student affairs? Because despite all the meaning we gain from our jobs, they are just not for everyone. Sometimes the rewards do not make up for the work, sometimes the toll is just too great, sometimes all the things that annoy us really are the job. We may care about the work, but it’s still that – work. And if we gloss over that part of the career field, we do a disservice to those we’re recruiting.
Here are some more stories from people in the field that try to show a realistic view of what it means to have a career in student affairs – and not just the good parts. Consider sharing your own story in the comments section to help us illustrate the many facets of our field.
“Sometimes My Job Sucks” by Marci K. Walton
Student Affairs Career for Some, Detour For Others by Chris Conzen
“The Things We Think but Do Not Say About Well Being” by Shane Cadden
“Loving Your Work” by Becca Fick
This post is part of our #CSAM15 series, in partnership with NASPA. Through these posts, we hope to highlight what it means to have a career in Student Affairs with a diverse group of contributors. With a focus on the students, defining Student Affairs, hot topics, and Striving Towards Betterment, there will be a lot to learn about this month! For more information, check out the intro post by John Weng at NASPA. Be sure to read the other posts in this series too!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Kevin Kruger on Avoiding Burnout in Student Affairs